Do you cry easily…too easily? If you get your feelings hurt frequently, you may be suffering from low endorphins.
*Neurotransmitters transmit impulses throughout the central nervous system and have a huge impact on mental and physiological health.
In this article, we dive into the neurotransmitters that make up the Endorphins.
Endorphins are neurotransmitters that reduce physical and emotional pain.
If you have sufficient endorphins, you feel joy and pleasure.
With low endorphins, you may get teary-eyed easily, get your feelings hurt or feel pain quickly and resort to comfort foods, alcohol, or even intense physical activity to feel better.
Symptoms of Low Endorphins
Many people with depleted levels of endorphins have found protective ways to hide their hypersensitivity. Some have a protective veneer of toughness or avoid intimacy and confrontation. Others find comfort in chocolate, bread, alcohol, sex, drugs or even too much exercise.
Many low-endorphin people also suffer from low serotonin. The protocols for both serotonin and endorphin boosting can be combined beautifully.
With homage to Julia Ross, MA, author of The Mood Cure, and Trudy Scott, CN, author of The Anti-Anxiety Food Solution who offer this composite list of self-identifying symptoms.
These are symptoms that you may recognize in yourself:
- Crying easily
- Hyper-sensitive to physical or emotional pain
- Craving comfort foods, alcohol or drugs to soothe your mood
- Frequently rewarding yourself with a treat
How Endorphins Become Depleted
- Genetics play a big role in endorphin levels
- Emotional stress and emotional pain can cause endorphin depletion
- Physical pain
- Women have lower endorphin levels than men (that’s why we are known to be more sensitive)
- Estrogen and DHEA levels affect endorphin release
Steps to Boost Your Endorphins
These steps will allow your body and brain to receive the nutrients needed to make the neurotransmitters it needs to function optimally.
- Improve your stomach acid levels to properly digest and allow your body to use the nutrients you eat.
- Eat plenty of healthy fats and especially protein. Avoid these cooking oils and use plenty of these oils.
- Increase your Omega-3 essential fatty acid intake.
- Check your Vitamin D levels and supplement where needed.
- Ditch processed foods and enjoy lots of whole, organic food.
- Drink plenty of clean water.
- Eat fermented foods that are rich in probiotics.
- Good sources of endorphin-rich foods are high protein sources such as meats and dairy products.
- Check your sensitivity to gluten and dairy. These substances can produce an endorphin-like high that can be addicting.
- Moderate exercise along with meditation or acupuncture will boost endorphins.
- Test your serum amino acid levels along with micronutrient levels (vitamins and minerals) before beginning a supplementation program.
- Check your hormone levels, particularly estrogen and DHEA.
- Consider amino acids and other supplements once your healthy nutrition is in place.
Supplements to Boost Endorphins
- As with all supplements, if you experience any adverse effects, stop taking them immediately.
- Excesses of neurotransmitters can be just as problematic as deficiencies.
- Consult with your healthcare practitioner if you have a serious illness such as cancer, severe liver or kidney problems, an ulcer, bipolar disorder, or schizophrenia. Check with your doctor if you are pregnant, nursing or are taking any prescribed mood medications such as an SSRI or MAOI.
- These supplements typically are not needed long term, three to six months is generally sufficient. Gradually taper off to determine if your symptoms have resolved.
- Quality matters when it comes to supplements.
- For brand recommendations, contact me for specific information.
Phenylalanine appears to protect endorphins from routine destruction by inhibiting the enzyme that breaks them down.
Phenylalanine comes in two forms: D- and L-phenylalanine. They can be combined for a synergistic effect into DL-phenylalanine (DLPA).
The L- formula (LPA) raises energy and decreases depression by raising dopamine levels. The D- formula (DPA) forms PEA (phenylethylamine), also found in chocolate, which is responsible for feelings of euphoria. The D- formula is the mirror image of the L-formula. It neutralizes the enzymes that break down endorphins.
For some, the LPA formulation works best, particularly if you are low in norepinephrine. For others, the DPA version works best, especially if you have a high energy level. The LPA version may leave some people feeling jumpy or have trouble sleeping.
Phenylalanine metabolism requires the following cofactors: Vitamin B6, Niacin, Vitamin C, Copper, SAMe, Iron and Folate. In other words, you must have sufficient levels of those nutrients in order for phenylalanine to be effective.
Cautions: Avoid phenylalanine if you have Grave’s disease, PKU, or melanoma. Consult with your physician if you have high blood pressure, migraine headaches or bipolar disorder.
An amino acid blend that includes at least the nine essential amino acids (histadine, isoleucine, leucine, lysine, methionine, phenylalanine, threonine, tryptophan and valine). Take these in a “free form” blend for a few months in addition to phenylalanine along with a protein rich diet.
Basic Vitamins: The B vitamins are very helpful all by themselves by relieving emotional and physical discomfort. Magnesium is a natural pain and inflammation reliever. Vitamins D, C and the Omega-3 fatty acids all reduce pain as well.
Why Supplements Sometimes Don’t Work
Taking the appropriate amino acids (the precursors of neurotransmitters) might seem like the best solution to raise endorphin levels. They can be very effective for some people.
But for those with underlying imbalances and other medical conditions, amino acids may have no effect at all (and can possibly worsen the situation).
If you go out and buy one of the supplements listed in the section below and it doesn’t help, you haven’t wasted your money. You’ve simply discovered that you need to dig deeper.
Here are some of the underlying conditions that can cause depression and mimic low endorphin symptoms:
- Thyroid imbalance
- Autoimmune diseases
- Blood Sugar Imbalance
- Estrogen and other Hormone levels
- Iron levels and anemia
- Lack of cofactors (vitamins/minerals/enzymes) to metabolize the amino acids (see below)
- Hypochlorhydria (lack of appropriate levels of stomach acid)
- Lack of digestive enzymes
- Anemia from Vitamin B12
- Vitamin D deficiency
- Inadequate fatty acid levels
- Heavy metal toxicity
- Copper overload
- Inadequate magnesium, lithium, zinc, chromium
- Inadequate methylation
- Adrenal gland insufficiency or HPA axis disorder
- Environmental toxicity
- Inadequate gut flora
- Lack of sleep
- Medication side effects
With appropriate lab testing, functional testing and symptom analysis, you can isolate the cause(s) of your symptoms. If you have questions or need guidance, contact me.
How Can we Reclaim our Emotions?
The simple truth is that most mood and emotional symptoms are caused by one or more physiological (physical) imbalances, with the exception of past emotional trauma or abuse situations.
It’s not all in your head.
Frequently conventional medicine doesn’t dig deep enough to find the root of your moods.
Don’t give up.
We will coach you how to find the root of your moods. Once we know what the underlying issue is, together, we can formulate a personalized plan involving simple lifestyle changes and the right nutrients for you.
No drugs, no restrictive diets, no magic shakes, no boot camps and no voodoo.
We recognize that everyone is different. Each of us is a different person with a unique biochemical and physical profile, which means that imbalances affect us differently. Therefore, your coaching plan will be customized to your lifestyle, your tastes and your budget.
Contact me for a free 20 minute consultation to find out how you can reclaim your emotions by finding the root of your moods.
The Anti-Anxiety Food Solution, Trudy Scott, CN, 2011
The Mood Cure, Julia Ross, MA, 2002
Staying Healthy with Nutrition, Elson M. Haas, MD, 2006
A Mind of Your Own, 2016, Dr. Kelly Brogan
Breakthrough Depression Solution, James M. Greenblatt, MD, 2016
Nutrition Essentials for Mental Health, Leslie Korn, 2016